Emily Sandberg graduated from the MFA program at the University of Virginia in 2011. Her story “Spoon” appears in Issue 28 of Fringe.
Trevor was out walking one day when a man in a business suit stopped him and handed him a large egg, along with an instruction manual, and before he could say so much as “What the hell?,” a black sedan pulled up and the man got in back and sped away.
This was the story Trevor had just finished telling me. The whole time I’d been staring at the egg. It was probably thirteen inches tall with a smooth, white, unblemished shell. “Let’s crack it open,” I suggested.
“I don’t think so,” he said and handed me the instruction manual, which had a picture of the egg on the front. “Looking after Your Egg,” I read.
The manual began with a list of Don’ts: Don’t Allow Others to Handle Your Egg; Don’t Leave Your Egg Unsupervised; Don’t Expose Your Egg to Direct Sunlight, Extreme Heat or Cold; Don’t Get Your Egg Wet; Don’t Subject Your Egg to Sudden, Violent Movements; Don’t Drop Your Egg. There were also pages of handling instructions with illustrations of correct and incorrect ways to handle the egg. I saw that Trevor was currently demonstrating Correct Handling Position No. 3, which consisted of cradling the egg to his chest in the manner of a wide receiver carrying a football to the end zone.
“Tell me again why we’re not cracking it open,” I said.
Trevor gave me a long look and went with his egg into the bedroom.
It was late when I joined him. He was already asleep with the egg cuddled up next to him. I didn’t like seeing him cuddling with that egg in our bed. It took me a long time to fall asleep and when I finally did, it was by picturing a long brick wall topped with an endless number of identical, oversized eggs and I went along pushing them off, one by one.
The next day I returned home from work to find Trevor readying his easel and paints. His subjects were mostly fruit and furniture, though he’d recently started work on a tasteful nude portrait of me. I was happy to see him getting ready to paint, happier still not to see the egg anywhere. I unbuttoned my blouse, slipped off my skirt, and removed my underwear; I was totally naked and ready to pose.
“Actually,” said Trevor, “I thought I’d try something different today.” He moved to one side and that’s when I saw the egg perched atop a purple satin pillow, already posing for him. And I know it was just an egg and incapable of expressing human emotion, but I swear that egg had an air of smugness to it then.
“Are you trying to break up with me?” I asked.
“No,” he said, “I just feel like concentrating on the egg is all.”
I thought there were better things he could concentrate on: “What about Teach for Australia? Tuna farming? That bar you wanted to open?”
Trevor was nodding, “Good ideas, all still on the table.”
“Is someone paying you to look after that thing?”
“That remains to be seen. It doesn’t seem out of the question.”
“And what if you spend all this time watching an egg and nothing comes of it?”
“And what if something does? I’m OK with waiting to find out.”
That night I made dinner. Scrambled eggs. Ostentatiously prepared. As I worked, I wondered what I might find inside Trevor’s egg if I could get it away from him and crack it open. A white and a yolk. Desiccated dinosaur embryo. Shredded newspaper. Marshmallow crème. An incendiary device. A puff of lavender-scented air. Nothing but empty egg-space.
Meanwhile, Trevor proceeded deeper into his Egg Period, painting the egg from different angles and in different lights.
The next day I came home and Trevor was in the shower. He’d left the egg in the other room, on its pillow, in a most vulnerable position. In my hands it was smooth and not heavy; it was neither warm nor cool to the touch. I wondered about the most dramatic cracking method. Should I force my thumbs into it? Let it fall on the wood floor? Slam it against the table?
Trevor came out of the bathroom, a towel around his waist.
I’d narrowed it down to floor or table, unable to decide which was more dramatic. I went with the floor and let the egg drop, though by then I’d already waited too long.
“My egg,” Trevor moaned and lunged, letting go of his towel to make the great catch.
Trevor left with the egg and I didn’t see him for several days and then he came back only to pack up his clothes, his painting supplies. He had the egg strapped to his chest in one of those baby carrier things and I had a hard time taking him seriously. The egg—I felt no ill will toward it; in fact I might’ve kissed it if he’d let me anywhere near it. I’d started to understand its appeal—the mystery, the possibility, the embrace of the unknown. At one point I thought I’d go crazy with wondering if Trevor left and I never found out what happened with his egg, but that’s not how it went. I soon stopped caring about any one specific egg; it was too literal, too one-note, Trevor’s way. In a sense, every day is an egg.